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EXCLUSIVE-Zurich CFO suicide review uncovers no impropriety - sources

Katharina Bart and Paul Arnold
Friday, 1 Nov 2013 | 4:10 PM ET

ZURICH, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Zurich Insurance is expected to tell investors its finance chief Pierre Wauthier was not subjected to undue strain in the run-up to his suicide and there was no evidence of impropriety in the company's finances, two people familiar with the situation told Reuters.

The insurer had enjoyed a "boring" image before the death of 53-year-old chief financial officer Wauthier and is seeking to draw a line under two tumultuous months.

In a typed suicide note, Wauthier blamed the insurer's then chairman Josef Ackermann for putting him under pressure.

Ackermann, the former head of Deutsche Bank, denied this but resigned days after Wauthier's death, saying later it would not have been possible to carry out his duties as chairman with the "required resolve".

Auditing firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Zurich securities law firm Homburger have conducted interviews and scoured scores of emails and other correspondence for evidence that Wauthier was placed under undue stress at work, the two sources said.

"Until now, there is no one event or series of occurrences that would qualify as undue pressure," one person at the Zurich-based insurer told Reuters.

A version of the report has been submitted to Swiss financial regulator Finma, a third source said. It is not clear whether Finma, which declined to comment on Friday, was contributing to the review in any way.

Representatives of Zurich Insurance, Homburger and Ackermann declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Pricewaterhouse Coopers was not immediately available for comment.

Calls to the Wauthier family were not answered.

Sources have told Reuters that Ackermann clashed with Wauthier in the run-up to second-quarter earnings and that in a meeting in mid-August, a day before the release of those results, Ackermann insisted that Wauthier make changes to the results presentation, leading Zurich to signal a lack of progress on business targets.

The review has not uncovered any irregularities in Zurich's finances or reporting, the sources said.

The report has not yet been presented to the board and changes could be made to it before it is finalised, said the source at the company.

Zurich is eager to draw a line under the controversy before Nov. 14, when it reports third-quarter results.

The company said in August that meeting three-year performance targets for its general insurance and U.S. business Farmers, which include goals for profitability and costs, would be "challenging".

It is due to update investors on the long-term targets on Dec. 5.

(Additional reporting by Philip Halstrick in Frankfurt; editing by Carmel Crimmins and Tom Pfeiffer)

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